Rear Adm. Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr. (USN)

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Thomas Oliver Selfridge, Jr.

Birthplace: Charlestown (Boston), MA, USA
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Rear Admiral Thomas O. Selfridge (USN) and Louisa Cary/Soley Selfridge
Brother of Edward A. Selfridge

Managed by: <private> Green
Last Updated:

About Rear Adm. Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr. (USN)

Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr. (6 February 1836 – 4 February 1924), son of Thomas O. Selfridge, was an officer in the United States Navy.

Born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Selfridge graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1854.


   * 1 Civil War
   * 2 Postwar
   * 3 Namesake ships
   * 4 See also
   * 5 References

Civil War

At the beginning of the American Civil War, he helped with efforts to destroy the untenable Norfolk Navy Yard; and he then escaped from that burning and beleaguered base in Cumberland, helping to save the sloop of war for the Union Navy. He participated in the capture of the Hatteras forts and was on board Cumberland on 8 March 1862 when she was sunk by Confederate ironclad, Virginia. He then briefly commanded Monitor, after Lieutenant John L. Worden was wounded; and commanded Alligator, an experimental submarine, in testing operations based at the Washington Navy Yard.

In August, he joined the Mississippi Squadron, and subsequently commanded Cairo and Conestoga when those ships were sunk in action. Late in the war, he returned to the Atlantic where he commanded Huron in the attacks on Fort Fisher; and he participated in the ensuing bombardment of Fort Anderson and the capture of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Panama Canal Plans

United States interest in a canal to join the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across the Central American Isthmus, not necessarily at Panama, awakened relatively late. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 created a tremendous volume of transisthmian business, mostly overland using the Panama Railroad as it was completed and came into use, and interest in a canal was heightened.

Inauguration in 1869 of Ulysses S. Grant as the 18th U.S. president brought new impetus to U.S. canal policy. Grant's personal interest went back to July 1852, when, as an Army captain, he led the American Fourth Infantry across the Isthmus of Panama en route to garrison duty in California. The military detachment of several hundred men, together with their dependents, became victims of a raging cholera epidemic in Panama that claimed the lives of 150 men, women and children. Grant later wrote of the tragic incident, "The horrors of the road in the rainy season are beyond description."

In 1869, President Grant ordered survey expeditions to Central America. The expeditions were organized by Navigation Bureau Chief Commodore Daniel Ammen and were under the command of the Secretary of the Navy George Maxwill Robeson. Surveys were conducted in Tehuantepec, Mexico, by Captain Robert W. Shufeldt; in the Darien by Commander Thomas Oliver Selfridge; in Nicaragua by Commander Chester Hatfield, Commander Edward P. Lull and Chief Civil Engineer Aniceto G. Menocal; and in Panama along the railroad line by Lull and Menocal. The fine quality of these surveys is still recognized today. Interestingly, the route of the current Panama Canal is nearly identical to that proposed by this Panama survey.

An Interoceanic Canal Commission was appointed by President Grant to evaluate the findings resulting from these Navy expeditions that took place between 1870 and 1875. A report was prepared by the Commission and, following due consideration, the Commission, in 1876, came out in favor of the Nicaragua route.

The U.S. Isthmian Canal Commission of 1899-1901, usually referred to as the second Walker Commission, after its president, Rear-Admiral John G. Walker, was, following failure of the French canal effort, ordered to again study all routes feasible to constructing a water route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The study was ordered by U.S. President William McKinley, who succeeded Grant in office. This time, the Panama and Nicaragua routes were to receive special consideration. The Nicaragua route again came out as the favored choice, but not for long.


His postwar service included command of Nipsic, Enterprise, and Omaha—the last two on the Asiatic Station—and duty as Commander in Chief of the European Squadron from 1895 to 1898. He retired on 6 February 1898 and died on 4 February 1924.

Namesake ships

USS Selfridge (DD-320) was named for the elder Rear Admiral Selfridge, while USS Selfridge (DD-357) was named for both officers.

See also United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg United States Navy portal


   * This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

Source: Downloaded 2011 from Wikipedia.

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Rear Adm. Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr. (USN)'s Timeline

February 6, 1836
Charlestown (Boston), MA, USA
February 4, 1924
Age 87